Who hasn’t seen this ridiculously adorable video? My heart melts every time I watch it. The mama and baby cat snuggled together asleep, until baby starts dreaming. Mama reaches over to give her a squeeze and all is right in the world.
I feel exactly the same sharing a bed with my daughter. I enjoy being right next to her, to comfort her in the middle of the night, to enjoy every moment of her short and sweet babyhood and quickly approaching toddlerhood. With the same fervor that some parents say the bedroom is their adult sanctuary, I insist that my bedroom is a cozy place of rest for the whole family.
While I was pregnant I didn’t feel this way. I registered for a beautiful crib, carefully picked out a mattress after long nights of researching online reviews. I knew she would sleep in the pack n play next to the bed at first. But of course she would move to the crib shortly after. That’s what babies do. They sleep in cribs. They will drink from a bottle if offered one. They use pacifiers. Leia does none of those things.
I remember watching Away We Go, and laughing hysterically at Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character and her family. Whackadoodle hippie parents. A family bed? That’s nonsense. How do the parent’s get naked? What if the kid never leaves their bed until they go to college? Craziness.
Babies change you. I know, so cliche. The first week (weeks?) Leia was home was a blur. It wasn’t long before I discovered that we both got more rest if we were in bed together. Sure I still had to get up every 2 hours to change her, feed her, soothe her. But after a clean diaper and a boob we were both off to dreamland. Ohmygosh, but what if you squish the baby? What about SIDS?! Just like mama cat in the video, I became hypersensitive of where my child was and what she needed. You don’t roll over on your baby just like you don’t randomly roll off the edge of the bed.
A few months later we were breastfeeding pros. She didn’t need her diaper changed in the middle of the night anymore. So now when she woke up hungry or needing comfort, all I had to do was roll onto my side so she could nurse and we both went back to sleep. No monitors, no getting out of bed, no crying baby. I was sold. I felt rested for a new parent (which is not the same as rested pre-children, ask any parent).
Around 4-6 months everyone wants to know “how is she sleeping?” “Is she sleeping through the night yet?” Parents are eager to boast that their child already has 8 hour stretches! Shoot, they’ll probably be driving and getting a job in the next few months. Parents are desperate for their children to sleep. Dad needs rest so he can go to work. Mom needs rest because she’s spent the last two days wearing the same pajamas and hasn’t left the house. But most of all, a baby sleeping through the night gives parents a feeling that their lives are somewhat theirs again.
I didn’t feel the same. I’m lucky enough to be a stay at home mom, so getting enough sleep to function behind a desk wasn’t a necessity. But unlike most parents I talked to, I was okay with my daughter to change my sleeping arrangements and patterns. I was okay with putting her needs first for as long as she needed. So every time someone – including her pediatrician – asked me the questions above I thought “no, but she will when she’s ready.”
The message boards, blogs, books (okay, who am I kidding, I had no time to read a book) all preached different sleep training techniques to start as early as four months. When I told people Leia and I slept in the same bed I almost always got the same gasp and head shake followed with “oh you have to stop that now, you’ll never get her out of your bed.” For a while I started to question myself. Was I doing the right thing? Was Leia going to have emotional or psychological issues because we shared a bed for X months or X years? No, of course not. I was just fine with the idea of a toddler in “my” bed.
Would it be different if Leia’s Dad and I were together? If I was married and it was 3 people in a bed? Probably not. I feel strongly that there are other times and places to be intimate. I want my bed and bedroom to be a place for sleep. Calm, comforting, quiet, restful. I realize I’m in a tiny tiny minority here.
One of the beautiful things about becoming a mom is becoming 110% stronger as a woman. I may stop and question the path I walk from time to time, but I trust my instincts. I don’t waiver if I find out my choices aren’t the popular decision. I do what is best for my daughter, and what is best for our family. I’m not a better parent than one whose child sleeps in a crib (unless the child is left to cry themselves to sleep, but my anti-CIO beliefs are another blog for another day). Doing what works for your family is the best choice.